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Evolving Rack Systems Keep Up with Latest Consumer Trends

A multitude of evolving consumer demands influence every aspect of home integration projects, right down to the way racks are designed.

OmniMount’s RE18 enclosed rack system comes fully assembled with 18 rack spaces. A multitude of evolving consumer demands influence every aspect of home integration projects, right down to the way racks are designed. Manufacturers today are adopting equipment enclosures to accommodate more devices, increased energy and efficiency requirements, and tighter spaces.

For Sanus, the challenge of more small devices creeping into and becoming a part of integrated entertainment systems is impacting the way it builds racks, said Rob Zurn, product manager for both Sanus and sister brand Chief. The list of devices Sanus designers consider is already lengthy and growing still. “Just adding a few to the mix starts to pile up the power transformers on the power strip,” Zurn noted.

As a result, Sanus has introduced the EcoSystem, a rack accessory with 5- and 12VDC outputs.

Today’s energy demands and the desire to minimize the footprint of equipment are dictating rack designs for Chief, Zurn added. “We now have the ability to turn off devices that are normally always on: Wi-Fi routers, amps, switchers, NAS drives, or anything else that is not needed when not in use. Control systems now allow for automated or manual control of powered devices that don’t normally have an off switch.”

Versatility is a big key to accommodating varying technologies in the home. “Installers, contractors, and integrators are faced with myriad applications, so the flexibility of having different cabinet heights and capacities gives them a lot of choices,” said Keith Fulmer, president, Video Mount Products (VMP). “There may also be installation applications where a wall cabinet may be a better fit, so those options would also be important. Thermal management capability, side access, and numbered RU positions are all design elements that users are looking for.”

Universal racks are trending over custom options, according to Tim Troast, director of physical infrastructure products, Middle Atlantic Products. “Most residential projects are incorporating large devices, such as advanced network equipment, that requires traditional rack depth while also housing smaller units like HDMI or video switchers, HDMI extenders, or Apple TVs,” Troast said. “Ultimately, there is demand to maximize space when accommodating equipment both large and small.”

IMS VP of sales and marketing, Kevin Groom, has observed that enclosure manufacturers have been adding to their standard product selections. “Larger custom installations are experiencing AV/ IT convergence,” he noted, “requiring custom component selections–including servers–that focus on the internal environment of the system, [including] expanded cabling, power, and cooling solutions.”

The preference for universal over custom racks is clear to Tom Lowell, residential sales manager, Lowell manufacturing; however, “what we do see is integrators taking your universal rack and needing to add a custom feature to it to accommodate a specific job requirement.”

Omnimount designs its racks to be turnkey solutions. “The racks ship pre-assembled, so all an installer needs to do is unpack it and load it with gear,” said Zach Eyman, senior product manager. “Each has standard 19-inch rack enclosures to work with all standard accessories, and a fully enclosed cooling system with top and bottom ventilation.”

Rack Accessories Gain Traction

Middle Atlantic’s Lever Lock While current rack trends clearly point toward universal preference, the importance of accessories has grown, as well.

As products become smaller and lighter, accessories for racks “are becoming more important to accommodate these smaller items,” said Tom Lowell, residential sales manager, Lowell Manufacturing. “Rack shelves do not need to be as deep or need to be made of a heavy gauge. Accessory items to mount inside on the side of the rack are becoming more prevalent.”

Middle Atlantic’s response to these demands is the Lever Lock, a series of accessories that attach to the enclosure sans tools, with a universal mounting pattern. A product or cable can then be mounted in the channel between rack-mounted items and the side of the rack.

Sanus has introduced the EcoSystem, a rack accessory with 5- and 12VDC outputs. “so you can get rid of all those power transformers and clean up your wiring considerably,” product manager Rob Zurn said. Other features of the EcoSystem include switchable low voltage ports that always remain on, LED lighting solutions, USB-charging ports, and a thermostat kit.

Kevin Groom of IMS noted that customers will advise on their applications, and then the IMS design team will modify or add other accessories from its data or electronic packaging side of the business.